No longer can we say that lockdowns are unprecedented. Whilst these events may be beyond the experience of many of us (though pandemics are not uncommon), the passage of time may well reveal this to be a discontinuity rather than a change to a complete new normal. The evolution of the high jump represents a process that is essentially the same in its objective but varied in its execution. This has been due to innovation.
The 19th century scissors jump was succeeded by the western roll in 1912 and the straddle in the inter war years. Each was a discontinuity from previous practice which enabled a massive step change in performance. But the latest and biggest step change was by Dick Fosbury in 1968 with his eponymous “flop”. Securing a 60% improvement in performance was significant in itself but so, at their time, was every change in technique.
But despite these changing techniques, the end objective remained the same: to jump higher and to do it securely. How many school sports days have been disappointed by the agonising clunk of a stray ankle knocking the bar to the ground?
Consider this illustration with the patterns of work and work/life balance that we are seeing now. What is the real impact on productivity, mental welfare, team and collegiate development and wider workforce?
Andy Haldane of the Bank of England recently said:-
I feel acutely the loss of working relationships and external stimuli — the chance conversations, listening to very different people with very different lived experiences, the exposure to new ideas and experiences.
The warm spring and summer days have passed, along with the euphoria and novelty of missing the daily commute. But experience is showing that the performance and productivity gains may be transitory.
The physical isolation of remote working, stresses and strains of constant screen time and the lack of variety of scenery and contact with colleagues means that effective productivity is reduced and in particular innovation and continuous improvement. Whilst there has been a ready shift to remote working, that in itself only represents adaptation rather than innovation.
How does the leader engage with new hires (graduates for example) who have actively chosen to work in an organisation with a positive culture? And how do new and aspiring leaders “conquer the world” with limited or no physical interaction with peers or more experienced colleagues to help shape their formation?
What product innovation can be achieved, or customer benefit derived, from a 2 dimensional experience of screen working?
But these are challenges that truly agile leaders must address if they are to equip their organisations and people to succeed; beyond seeing the speaking head on a zoom screen or previously in a distant conference hall.
Perhaps it is time for leaders to make a discontinuous shift in behaviour and technique:
- Could you pick up the phone or engage, on a one to one basis, with a wider range of colleagues diagonally in your organisation than you have previously.
- Why not find a reason to seek the views of an individual you have never spoken to in your wider team.
- How could you engage more collaboratively with suppliers or stakeholders or even customers?
- How do leaders address their brains to be more “mindful” both for themselves and for a wider group of colleagues and stakeholders?
- How can one develop mechanisms that foster alignment and innovation to a greater extent; perhaps even more than in the pre covid world?
With a new lockdown now in place in the UK and elsewhere we can could do just the same as we did in the first lockdown or ….perhaps we can take a leaf out of Dick Fosbury’s playbook and move beyond the same old of doing it!
Nick Brown, Executive Coach, Praesta Partners